An idea formulated at this year’s Hall of Flowers came to fruition over Veteran’s Day week. Compassion Over Destruction was spearheaded by cannabis industry leader Eden Enterprises/Garden of Eden, with the help of its partners the Hall of Flowers, Sweetleaf Collective, and the many vendors who participated. Typically, unsold cannabis goods at the end of a permitted cannabis trade show, such as the Hall of Flowers, have been destroyed, due to regulations that prevent them from returning to the supply chain, and burdensome taxes that have made it impractical or unaffordable to give the products to the compassion programs that the recent passage of SB-34 is intended to protect and reinstitute. The Compassion Over Destruction event transferred over $30,000 worth of cannabis products to low income and terminally ill patients via their very worthwhile partners at Operation Evac, Rossmoor Senior Center, and Sweetleaf Collective.
Shareef El-Sissi, CEO of Eden Enterprises, was inspired by the heartbreaking scene at the prior iteration of the Hall of Flowers event, when clean and tested product was forcibly destroyed, in order to maintain compliance with overly complex and unforgiving California cannabis regulations. Compassion Over Destruction was born out of the principles that Garden of Eden was founded on in 2003, and he told NUGL why he and the Eden team are honored to continue the tradition of compassionate giving after 16 years. “Witnessing the destruction of hundreds of units of clean tested cannabis (after the previous Hall of Flowers) was heartbreaking, and from that moment it became our mission to find an alternative pathway, and the idea of the Compassion Over Destruction initiative was born.” Shareef hopes that the leadership shown will spread as a model through the industry. “Ultimately, the goal of this program is to lift up the entire cannabis community and strive for better industry-wide sustainability. No product should be going to waste, regardless of what dispensary or supplier it is coming from when there are those in need that can directly benefit, but may not have the resources to obtain it.”
Joe Airone of Sweetleaf Collective has been involved in compassion programs for over 20 years, since they were the basis for medical marijuana’s legalization with Proposition 215 in 1996. He has fought for measure like The Dennis Peron and Brownie Mary Act (SB-34), which was passed by the California state senate and signed into law in late 2019. SB-34 was intended to correct the oversight in Proposition 64 (the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative) which taxed almost all of the compassion programs in the state to the point that nearly all had to shut down completely, or severely cut back on their giving. Though the effects of SB-34 have not yet been fully implemented, Joe hopes that this program is a sign of the return of compassion and common sense to cannabis culture and community. “Before Prop 64, products like these could be restocked and sold. Now with the changes in regulations to the supply chain because of proposition 64, products that go to events cannot go back to distribution to be sold. The state wants them destroyed.” Joe hopes to continue to work with Garden of Eden and Hall of Flowers to encourage vendors at HOF and other cannabis events and trade shows to similarly pass along the overflow to those in desperate need.
For the team at Eden Enterprises, they believe they’ve found a successful model for incorporating compassion and sustainability into an industry that has at times ignored or misregulated those crucial elements. Pamela Epstein, Chief Regulatory and Licensing Officer for Eden Enterprises says, “True sustainability in cannabis is more than just recyclable packaging and solar panels, it has to be a holistic approach that fundamentally touches all aspects of operations and engagement, which is why this is such an exciting opportunity to be involved in this new category of cannabis waste reduction.” Shareef El-Sissi also pointed out how the wasteful elements of destroying unsold or used trade show designated cannabis goes beyond just the high quality product being intentionally destroyed. “It is extremely wasteful and not environmentally friendly, especially when taking into account the considerable amount of required packaging materials that must also be destroyed.”
For the immediate future, Compassion Over Destruction will continue to work with Hall of Flowers and other trade shows, and all of the participants are optimistic that as the effects of SB-34 are implemented, more compassion programs will be formed or re-instituted. Joe Airone of Sweetleaf urges NUGL readers and cannabis community members to support compassion programs by encouraging and pressuring trade shows and events they attend or work with to keep the medicinal benefits of California cannabis compassionately provided to those who need them most.
To get involved with supporting Cannabis Compassion programs, please contact Sweetleaf Collective: https://www.sweetleafcollective.org/